Local News

Tuesday, Jan 10 2012 08:36 PM

Site near Highway 99 recommended for campus

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    By Kent Kuehl/The Californian

    Proposed sites for a Bakersfield College satellite campus.

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BY JORGE BARRIENTOS Californian staff writer jbarrientos@bakersfield.com

A consulting firm hired by the Kern Community College District to study sites for a proposed Bakersfield College campus is recommending it be built at Bear Mountain Boulevard and Highway 99, rather than in Arvin's city center as community members have long campaigned.

But the firm suggests college officials and Arvin representatives work together for a happy medium.

"This location best serves the future needs for the south and southwest residents in the Bakersfield College area," according to the report by Yang Staehlin & Associates.

Arvin campus supporters, however, aren't throwing in the towel. They understood that the study would look at whether a campus could be sustained in Arvin, and not compare the sites, said former KCCD Chancellor Jim Young, an Arvin resident leading the Arvin campus movement.

The new report simply reiterates what district officials have proposed in years past, he said.

"We knew what the recommendation was," Young said. "I thought (the report) would be much more thorough."

He added: "In my view, it's not a done deal. We have more work to do."

Amber Chiang, district and BC spokeswoman, said the study all along was aimed at seeing which is the "most feasible for a south Kern educational site."

The KCCD board will discuss the results of the study during a work study session Thursday. Gin Yang, a firm representative and former facilities specialist for the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office, will be on hand to present the report and answer questions from the board and community.

Talk of a new campus center in south Kern has been under way for years, but the debate over where has intensified more recently.

The district already owns 126 acres on Bear Mountain Boulevard, bought in 2007. The city of Arvin has donated 25 acres in the center of town for the project.

Arvin city and school officials argue the area needs a college center to educate some of the least educated in the country, and to revitalize the region.

Currently, about 850 south Kern students take college offerings at Arvin High School, and still others travel 29 miles to BC's main campus on Panorama Drive in Bakersfield.

College officials in recent months have hosted community forums to address concerns, including college transportation issues.

In July, Young said the study should be a "slam-dunk" in favor of building a campus in Arvin. He said the site on Bear Mountain Boulevard lacked infrastructure, including electricity, sewer and buildings.

Meanwhile, district and college leaders say enrollment projections show a center near Highway 99 would cater to more students than one in Arvin.

The feasibility study reiterates that, saying the site is in the center of future rapid growth and would fit a campus. Community college planners recommend 50 to 100 acres for the center as proposed, and 100 to 150 acres for a college, the report states.

It also suggests BC and Arvin representatives work together to "build the foundation for continued education" in Arvin, and increase access to student services like financial aid and counseling.

A college campus of any kind locally is not expected anytime soon due of state budget constraints, Chiang said.

Young said Arvin officials will prepare a written response to the study to submit to the board.

In other business, the KCCD board on Thursday is expected to:

* Vote on an already state-approved per-unit fee increase for non-resident and foreign students attending KCCD colleges for the 2012-13 school year. The $18 increase is expected to generate $100,000 annually, reports show.

* Vote on a resolution to realign trustee area boundaries that would equalize population to about 134,000 people per trustee. Since July, trustees have been reviewing proposed changes to the areas they represent due to population shifts in the last 10 years.

Three options were drawn for the five trustee areas, including one that uses school district boundaries, which trustees will vote on accepting. Maps can be found at www.kccd.edu under Board of Trustees, and then Trustee Area Maps.

* Vote on rejecting all bids for BC's Performing Arts modernization, which all exceeded KCCD's $12.3 million budget. The lowest bid was $14.788 million. The state has approved the project for $11.9 million.

Now, college officials will work with the architect to look at "value engineering," where savings can be found, Chiang said. New plans will be sent to the state for approval. Bids will be solicited again, with plans to award a bid in April.

Construction should be complete by the end of 2013.

* Review emergency repairs finished in December in the 50-year-old admissions and records office at BC, which required asbestos treatment. The cost of the repairs was $86,000.

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